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Even for a saga that has dealt with sexuality and attraction plenty, it’s rare in Star Wars actually see people stripped down to their bare bodies in ways meant to invoke intimacy and desire. But “Teach/Corrupt”, the latest episode of The Acolyte, did exactly that this past week when Osha found herself in the den of the series’ mysterious antagonist, the Stranger–and found herself seeing more of him than she bargained for.

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Early on in “Teach/Corrupt” when Osha–having been left to take the place of her sister Mae in a twin sister switcheroo at the climax of the prior episode–awakens on a mysterious island world, we see her follow Manny Jacinto’s Stranger down a beach to a nearby pool of water. Hiding behind a rock, and having picked up the Stranger’s lightsaber just in case a fight breaks out, Osha and the audience alike watch as the Stranger quietly and calmly undresses out of his robes, before stepping nude into the waters. When he makes it clear to Osha he knows that she’s there, as they talk the Stranger keeps swimming, before re-emerging from the pool and walking towards Osha to redress himself: again, entirely naked, revealing the scars across his muscular body while also presenting himself completely defenseless to her, as he begins to make the case for his own beliefs to his wary guest.

While we the as the audience don’t see everything Osha sees–no full frontal nudity in Star Wars quite yet–the implication we’re given is that she herself is seeing the Stranger laid literally bare before her, with a frisson of energy running underneath Osha and the Strangers’ scenes after this moment that play with the seductive desire of both the power the Stranger has, and in his raw physicality. For showrunner Leslye Headland, that sensuality, and presenting the Stranger naked in it, was an important element of the episode’s intent. “Lucasfilm really believed in my vision. From a narrative perspective, it had to happen. It had to. He did, like, a Steven Seagal neck snap in the [previous] episode. How do you, at all, get from that to humanity? The only way to do that is to show him in such a wildly vulnerable position, and it has to be visual,” Headland recently told Collider as part of a wide-ranging interview about the episode. “I can’t think of something more vulnerable than someone holding a lightsaber on someone who’s that exposed. I just don’t. I felt like he was so merciless in the previous episode that he had to stand in front of her and say, like, ‘You absolutely can kill me,’ essentially.”

According to Headland, it was important to contrast these scenes between Osha and the Stranger with what she had just seen of him the episode prior–ruthlessly carving his way through a whole team of Jedi like a silent monster–and presenting that through having the Stranger be completely naked (reminding us and Osha alike that yes, Manny Jacinto is a very handsome man when we’re not watching him skewer a padawan) was the visual the episode needed to show the change in their relationship. “The dynamics had to be what they are after what he did in [Episode] 5. He cannot seem like an alpha male-y, intimidating—we know he’s capable of that from [the last episode]—but that cannot be his dynamic with [Osha],” Headland continued. “It wouldn’t make sense! We have to see this other side of him, and we have to see specifically the way he is with her. He never let Mae see his face, and he let her see him naked. You know what I mean? The character design was very, very intentional.”

Given the general family audience Star Wars usually goes for, nudity and titillation is not something we typically see a lot of on-screen, even as the franchise broadens the stories it tells and offers more mature, adult material in its approach to violence, language, or, as is the case here in The Acolyte, a move towards at least acknowledging that kind of obvious sensuality exists in the galaxy far, far away as much as it does our own. Sure, The Acolyte is still careful to cut around it, and is using nakedness not just as sexual tension, but as an act of physical vulnerability. But it’s still a step towards something we rarely get to see from Star Wars on screen–and even gets to throw in a bit of lightsaber hilt innuendo while it’s at it, to boot.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest MarvelStar Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.



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